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The Tree of Life

July 3rd, 2012

S, here.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to see this movie. But sometimes, I think, movies come to me just when I’m ready for them and not before.

I loved this movie. After months of seeing and hearing about prequels, sequels, and 2.0 versions of the same stories, seeing an original work is refreshing. I read a review of this movie and the reviewer mentioned that so many film makers these days shy away from attempting a masterpiece – just playing it safe. Terrence Malick is one of those filmmakers that is not afraid to try for something original and new – a masterpiece.

At times the film seems more like a meditation than a movie. It moves slowly and is filled with grace and beauty, though it doesn’t shy away from cruelty and hard knocks. It shows the sublime – from the creation of life on Earth – to the mundane – the creak of a rope swing in a tree and the sigh of a screen door. The film is filled with images and the story is more implied than told. It centers on the O’Brien family gives us glimpses of the lives of Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien and their three sons. We experience their world through the middle-aged eyes of the oldest son, Jack, as he remembers his youth in innocence and beyond.

These memories show us the loving, forgiving mother and the disciplinarian dad (a dad many of us grew up with in the 50’s and 60’s). I think we see Jack coming to terms with his feelings for his parents and the wondrous world he experienced in his childhood – and brings that wonder into his adult life in the space of what seems to be an elevator ride. It’s brilliant. As he reconnects at the end of the film with the people that inhabited the world of memory, you can feel him loosening up and breaking up the crust of his life.

Even though Malick’s world is one I was too young to live in, I do remember family suppers and tall jewel-colored aluminum glasses for cold milk and iced tea. I loved that the film evoked a time and place and I think many of us would recognize it and be transported by it. If you want a retreat from comic book characters and explosions this film is a good choice.

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